What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created by the state which forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If these are broken there can be sanctions imposed. Law has a variety of functions, depending on the nation in question: It can keep the peace and maintain the status quo; it may protect minorities against majorities; it may preserve individual rights; and it can enable orderly social change. Various legal systems serve these purposes differently, and some fail to serve them at all.

There is a wide range of laws that regulate a variety of activities, from contract law (governing agreements to exchange goods and services) to property law (defining people’s rights and duties toward tangible, or real, property such as land or buildings) to administrative law, which governs the administration of government agencies, including the judiciary. Many of these laws are based on written constitutions, legislative statutes, or decisions by judges. In common law countries, decisions by higher courts bind lower courts, a practice known as “stare decisis.”

In some legal systems, the source of law is religious precepts, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia. These sources require further human elaboration through interpretation, Qiyas, and Ijma to provide more comprehensive and detailed legal systems than the constitution, legislative statutes, or judicial decisions alone can produce.